Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Deep Time

Tonquin forest

Tonquin Guardian

His perch more precarious
with each year

In old age I am living in deep time,
unable to pick up a rock without thinking about
the many aeons it has seen; its history
held wordless and yet present in my hand.

I have lived many lives,
the poet said, and so have I,
each one lasting about a decade,
give or take, me emerging, heart-scalded
but wiser, at the end, ready to plunge into
the next adventure, the next decade
of becoming.

Deep time is speeding up now,
as we struggle to awaken to all the species
who are flickering and dying, fail to grasp
the enormity of the melting taiga,
the tilting of the earth on its axis
at the poles, sorrow on the faces
of the indigenous people of the north,
who say the sun has moved its position
on the horizon.

In deep time, I fear it is too late for hope,
yet still I try. I speak to Tofino Council
about the folly of clearcutting the village's
only old growth forest to make way
for housing, for humans, for us,
explaining the connection between
the trees breathing in and out,
as our own chests rise and fall.
It should be so simple
to understand. But dollar signs
and political pressure flickers
in their eyes. The wild things
will lose another home.

Sigh. In old age, I am living in
deep time, knowing too much to
ever take for granted any single thing;
resigned, as earth cries out 
in her many voices, wondering
why so few of us can hear.

The line "I have lived many lives" is from the line "I had many lives" in "Formaggio" by Louise Gluck. For Brendan's challenge at earthweal: Deep Time.


  1. Time...really something to ponder.

    Here we are raising houses up high so they don't flood, since they are built on an old wetland. Folly indeed!

  2. I wonder too... maybe the best we can do is to save as much as we can be keeping a garden-forest larger than we need.

  3. "Deep time is speeding up now"
    Yes, there is that feeling lately of acceleration, be it climate change, the virus or unrest. JIM

  4. I also wonder why so few people can hear. It is so sad and also frightening. This reads as a disturbing wake-up call for me:
    'the indigenous people of the north,
    who say the sun has moved its position
    on the horizon.'

  5. Ingrid, the weight of melting ice has tilted the earth on its axis a little. This was predicted by scientists and will worsen as more ice melts (which will also cause rising sea levels along all the coasts.) The northern elders have seen this in the sun's slightly different position on the horizon. Very alarming to me, too.

  6. Yes, I think I'm living in deep time too. Mind you, as an astronomer, I have always swum in that sea.....

  7. I fear only the rocks will endure ~

  8. The common thought is that time speeds as we age; but for one whose poetry is so rooted in earth rhythms, that speed translates to the growth of deep time in one's registers. If anything, speedy human time becomes more offensive to the deep time heart. Throwing everything so fast away. I see the cost in saying this, but it is so important to do so -- so thanks - Brendan

  9. It sounds like living in 'deep time' can be both a blessing and a curse. A poem written by a wise woman. Smiles.

  10. Sigh. I wish I had written this but I am so grateful that you scribe what my heart wants to say. I too live in deep time, and gradually, my hope is shrinking.

  11. Sherry,
    I read this last week. I was having problems posting on your site off my phone. Now on my desk top, I read it again. I liked how you took deep time and gave it some wisdom by sharing your long relationship with this world. Time does seem to have a faster pace, except for the lingering moments we take not knowing if we will have the opportunity again.


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